Long reads


The multiscreen and OTT TV survey

France 24 on an iPad.

France 24 on an iPad.

In the final part of this week’s series of features about multiscreen and OTT TV, we survey a range of industry participants about some of the key issues and opportunities facing multiscreen and OTT distributors. 

How has the multiscreen TV technology landscape developed in the last 12 months?

Frédéric Bonnard, vice-president, new media, France24

During the last 12 months, we’ve experienced a major shift showing interactivity will definitively not come from the big TV screens but from tablets or mobiles used as companion devices. For example, at France 24 we invested very early on in applications for connected TV and we haven’t yet seen the return on our investment. Both the downloads of applications and visits are slow to take off for numerous reasons. At the same time, we have seen a growing interest in using either tablets or mobile devices as a main screen to access content – more than 40% of our content on the web is accessed from a mobile device now – or as a companion screen to interact with the big screen. But we also noticed that focusing on synchronising content between the TV and the tablet during a live show was much less critical and valuable than using the second screen to extend the lifespan of a show. Live or on-demand broadcast of a show on TV is now part of a much larger user experience that spans from social networks and mobiles to YouTube and the web. It is now critical to create content that can benefit from all those other channels.

David Sandford, vice president and general manager, international, TiVo

The proliferation of broadband connected screens has changed how many define television. Consumers now have a myriad of content choices, which has lead to an immensely chaotic environment as they try to navigate this sea of choice and find something that they may want to watch – and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who actually enjoys flipping through a channel grid guide or on-demand library. Unfortunately, many of the channel guides and search features available from pay TV operators are slow and difficult to navigate and are only capable of searching across linear TV channels and operator VOD, not the complete spectrum of content sources, including OTT such as Netflix and YouTube. At the same time, the debate continues to rage over whether the multiscreen viewing experience is best for consumers coming from the program owners themselves or delivered via the operator. Today there are only a few players, including TiVo, that make it possible for consumers to search across linear, cable VOD, OTT, recorded and live to enable viewers to always find what they want to watch whenever and wherever they want to watch it

Simon Frost, head of TV marketing, Ericsson

The industry is witnessing a transition to the multiscreen TV reality, where the services that operators are offering have advanced beyond simple deliverance of services to multiple screens. The growth of services on mobile devices has heightened the need for solutions that enable the delivery of consistent, high quality TV experiences. Another of the most significant developments of the past 12 months has been the evolution of IP video delivery, which has become a crucial enabler in TV Anywhere delivered across multiple devices. According to the Ericsson June 2013 Mobility Report, as consumers demand access to their media content on all of their devices, TV and video traffic is set to dominate networks and grow from 40% to 90% of mobile traffic within the next three to four years. Today’s consumer increasingly expects an ever more personalised service that offers the greatest convenience and the best user experience within the context they are viewing the content. These are critical content consumption drivers that are driving the TV technology landscape. We are moving towards what Ericsson terms the ‘networked society’, where every device and every person is connected.

Harry Koiter, vice president, business development, SeaChange

We’ve seen some of our larger service provider customers move from a separate delivery platform serving each screen to an integrated service delivery platform as they introduce video-on-demand and want to look to offer shared profiles and entitlements. Additionally, we are seeing that our customers’ intensified focus on video catalogue maintenance is enticing subscribers to consume more content.

Carl Walter-Holst, CEO, Appear TV

The recent year or so has seen new market entrants and existing broadcasters and network operators launch multiscreen offerings all over the globe. Platforms such as Netflix that provide OTT access to video content to multiple connected devices have transitioned from early adopter territory and are now an everyday experience for millions of customers, making it clear that other video distributors and TV operators need to launch multiscreen strategies to compete. Appear TV believes that multiscreen delivery provides a great opportunity for TV platform operators and broadcasters. Operators that can combine existing revenue streams with a premium content offer that delivers a high-quality multiscreen experience to connected TVs, PCs, tablets, smart phones and other connected devices, make it very hard for new entrants to gain a foothold in the marketplace.

Keith Wymbs, vice-president, marketing, Elemental Technologies

A combination of market drivers and innovations in the video industry has accelerated multiscreen technology development over the past 12 months. First, device proliferation: 2012 saw approximately 78% year-over-year growth in tablet shipments according to International Data Corporation (IDC). Second, mobile video revenues: Strategy Analytics estimated worldwide mobile media revenues reached US$150 billion by the end of 2012, a 17% increase year-over-year. Third, video consumption on mobile devices: mobile video views increased 300% between 2011 and 2012 according to the US Digital Video Benchmark 2012 Review from Adobe. Fourth, over-the-top television growth: third-party, OTT video services such as Netflix and Hulu became easier to access and increased in popularity. Fifth, High Efficiency Video Coding: work on the HEVC codec standard culminated in its ratification earlier this year – paving the way for 4K Ultra HD. Sixth, cloud-based infrastructures: new models emerged, offering flexible video processing resources for operators launching multiscreen services.

What hurdles do operators need to overcome when deploying multiscreen services?

Keith Wymbs, Elemental Technologies

The primary hurdles are container fragmentation, bandwidth constraints due to 4K video, increasing customer expectations when using wireless connections, and monetisation. First, there’s container fragmentation: achieving the widest breadth of video distribution requires delivery to multiple viewing devices with differing screen sizes over heterogeneous networks with capacities that vary over time. A smartphone requires a completely different asset than a high-definition television. Adaptive bitrate technology enables clients to seamlessly adapt to changing network conditions and provides high-quality playback regardless of the device, but there are so many flavours today from Adobe, Apple, Microsoft, and so on. MPEG-DASH is seeking to consolidate this over time, but the uptake in the industry is still in the very early stages and Apple, so far, is not committing to its support. Second, 4K or Ultra HD TV: today, the bandwidth required for H.264-compressed 4K content – 18-20Mbps – is prohibitive. HEVC shrinks bitrates required for 4K to potentially less than 10 Mbps. Elemental has advanced its HEVC software codec implementation to support 4K/H.265 and can also encode 1080p HEVC at below 3Mbps. Third, there is wireless network capacity: Customers are starting to expect a robust WiFi experience over their standard cellular data connections. At the same time the expectations for premium quality video are also increasing. This poses a challenge for the wireless industry. Bandwidth is too low and bitrates for the video are too high. Early HEVC adopters will be in mobile video, where views are up nearly 300% year over year, according to a recent Adobe study. The new HEVC codec will double the efficiency of H.264 and enable users to download files for viewing in much less time, improve the quality of streamed content, and store twice as much video in device memory. HEVC will also help reduce transport costs of video distribution and extend market reach. Fourth, there is monetisation: Adobe has taken this challenge head on with Primetime TV. This platform is designed to help content programmers and distributors monetise multiscreen video while extending its reach. Elemental encoding is one of the key technology enablers for Adobe Primetime.

Carl Walter-Holst,  Appear TV

Distributing high-quality live video to a variety of screen sizes and devices is a complex task. With increased internet access together with more powerful computers, tablets and mobile phones capable of receiving video content from broadcasters anywhere, anytime introduces new challenges and demands for content and network infrastructure providers. The problem with this avalanche of potential new receivers is the corresponding flood of distribution formats required to make each device capable of showing live video. This, combined with the end-user expectation of content availability anywhere, introduces a demanding operational challenge. Security is also a multiscreen issue. It is certainly hampering the sharing of premium content using technologies such as DLNA. However, broadcasters offering multiscreen video controlled from the headend are able to extend the reach of  conditional access systems to individual devices, providing an advantage to operators controlling the multiscreen experience from a centralised headend.  Another issue is picture quality. Consumers are experiencing high-quality video at home and increasingly have very high quality screens on their mobile devices, so it’s important that multiscreen delivers great mobile video. The early phase of broadcaster multiscreen deployments, however, have primarily been deployed with software compression solutions and are struggling to meet QoS expectations. This is a particular issue on the small screen, which in turn has led to poor subscriber gains and pressure on multiscreen ROIs. This is why as we planned our multiscreen strategy it became clear to us that the next two or three generations of video silicon will provide hardware-based encoding with a substantial and growing performance advantage over software encoding in a live delivery environment where as software-based solutions remain the preferred application for offline video processing. It’s Appear TV’s belief that if you’re encoding or transcoding in real time it’s critical to plan on doing this in hardware moving forward, so that you can simultaneously improve both quality and density.

Harry Koiter, SeaChange

There are a number of aspects to take into account in addition to securing rights for all screens. From an operational point of view a single delivery platform for all screens is preferred or even required when content is productised for multiscreen or even OTT use. Also scalability in multiscreen/OTT deployment is crucial as this poses the highest risk to performance.  So, the back office, as well as private or public CDNs, need to cater to high capacity at peak times – over 10% concurrency. The most challenging aspect, however, is probably the enforcement of policies for content rights in all TV everywhere use cases – in-home, outside  home but inside operator network, or outside the network. This again underscores the requirement for a unified back office.

Simon Frost, Ericsson

There certainly isn’t a technological barrier to multiscreen, but the proliferation of connected devices in conjunction with increased consumer demand for seamless TV Anywhere services is proving to be a game changer within the industry. It has resulted in an explosion of data traffic over the network – Ericsson found in the June 2013 Mobility Report that mobile data traffic for smartphones is predicted to grow x14 by 2018. This vast increase, driven principally by video, is putting unprecedented strain on operators’ networks.

Frédéric Bonnard, France 24

We currently see two main challenges. The first one is the continuity of experience. How do you know what a person has seen on YouTube or on the web from your brand, and what can you offer him or her on social networks or on mobiles to complement their experience and not just offer the same content again and again? The second challenge is quality of service. As we bring the TV and the internet worlds closer together, we noticed that users expect the same level of quality of service from the internet as broadcast TV. Users no longer accept that the application they are using on their tablet while watching a show could freeze when the broadcast signal never fails.

David Sandford, TiVo

We believe that there are three main hurdles that operators need to overcome to provide consumers with the ultimate viewing experience. First, they need to bring all of these seemingly infinite choices and organise them by means of navigation and/or menuing to create a cohesive user interface. Second, they need to continue developing these robust and uniform whole-home and out-of-home experiences to fit the way the consumer wants  them. The third, and perhaps most important, challenge for the industry is nailing down and personalising the experience so that every time a person turns on their device they have a unique experience framing their TV viewing options.

Who are the leaders so far when it comes to multiscreen deployments?  

David Sandford, TiVo

At TiVo, we’ve been fortunate enough to work with a number of progressive cable operators that have put multiscreen deployment top of mind when it comes to evolving their business. A great example would have to be Virgin Media when they launched Virgin TV Anywhere, an app that gives you the freedom to enjoy live TV as well as catch up on the shows you missed, wherever you go. In the US, RCN tapped TiVo to help create their forthcoming TV Everywhere portal, which will feature the ability to watch video from internet sources as well as integrate with RCN’s linear television and on-demand offering. Additionally, other TiVo operator partners are actively pursuing multiscreen.

Carl Walter-Holst, Appear TV

Sky is a leader – providing Sky Go to subscribers and Now TV to non-subscribers, but there are notable others such as Verizon and Etisalat from an international perspective. What is perhaps most interesting about Sky is its dual strategy business model, with Sky Go functioning primarily as a churn preventer while Now TV is aimed at gaining additional revenues from non-subscribers and providing upsell opportunities. It also has the added benefit of depriving pure OTT operators of revenues and customers, weakening potentially powerful competitors.

Keith Wymbs, Elemental Technologies

Many leading media companies are realising multiscreen success and Elemental is pleased to support them. A few examples include the BBC: the pioneering iPlayer service now reaches millions of users and a wide variety of connected devices – with live, catch-up and VOD content. The BBC used Elemental Live to stream 2,500 hours of the 2012 Olympics, simultaneously creating 24 alternate HD streams. Comcast: the largest pay TV operator in the US is selling premium TV Everywhere to broadband and mobile subscribers. Comcast uses Elemental Server to deliver on-demand multiscreen video to XfinityTV.com. HBO: the premium US cable and satellite TV network offers instant and unlimited access to every episode of every season of HBO shows, movies, comedy, sports and documentaries through its popular multiscreen service, HBO Go. HBO uses Elemental video solutions to prepare video for the service. Foxtel: one of Australia’s most progressive and dynamic media companies offers its subscribers the Foxtel Go over-the-top (OTT) and TV Everywhere services for watching premium TV shows, series and sports on the go. Foxtel uses Elemental video processing systems to process and deliver 50+ channels for Foxtel Go.

Frédéric Bonnard, France 24

In our industry, we see a lot of trials on different ‘screens’ separately from different players, but nobody has been able to deploy the ultimate multiscreen experience that puts the user in the middle and brings a real continuity of experience.

Simon Frost, Ericsson

Chunghwa Telecom continues to be one of the biggest innovators in the multi-screen space, and we have successfully worked alongside them for the last few years to enable the world’s biggest IPTV system upgrade and enhance multi-screen capabilities in Taiwan.

Harry Koiter, SeaChange

I think Virgin Media and Ziggo have created two of the most exemplary multiscreen deployments, both in terms of service flexibility and subscriber response.  Their subscribers are consuming more content anytime they want it, and the effect has been greater than when we first introduced video-on-demand.  Ziggo has even gone as far as opening up their WiFi hotspots nationwide to allow for true TV everywhere at limited cost to the subscriber.  Typical multiscreen viewing peaks are around 19:00-21:00 for second screen usage and 23:00 for live viewing of late night shows.

What business models work best in the multiscreen space today?

Frédéric Bonnard, France 24

We are a government funded radio and TV international news channel. Our main objective is to make sure that our quality content is viewed, read, listened to and shared as much as possible around the world. So our experience with the different business models doesn’t apply to the whole industry.

Harry Koiter, SeaChange

Bundling multiscreen with top-tier multiplay packages is currently the favourable business model.  It drives up consumption of content – both linear and on-demand – and helps retain subscribers. Some service providers are now starting to market content more actively on multiscreen devices, slowly driving up ARPU. This hasn’t changed since the introduction of multiscreen services. The real opportunity comes when multiscreen services start getting reach and service providers start introducing OTT-only services. Another business model that will emerge thanks to reach is advertising, which will either fund the service, or drive additional revenues.

Simon Frost, Ericsson

There are now a number of new avenues that operators can use to monetise the evolving multi-screen business model, such as the integration of social media, time-shifted content and second-screen devices. By 2020, we predict that of the 50 billion connected devices across the globe, 15 billion are expected to be video enabled. While this offers a fantastic opportunity for operators, it will also place a heavy strain on mobile networks. With the emergence of IP networks, it is important for operators to implement complete end to end solutions which fully leverage the benefits offered, rather than deploying disjointed trials or test phases. Today’s next generation technologies for the delivery of TV content over mobile, such as Ericsson’s LTE Broadcast solution, are revolutionising multi-screen simply because they are completely unified solutions that offer TV anywhere, across any device. LTE Broadcast comprises three new technology standards – HEVC, MPEG-DASH and eMBMS – to enable operators to cost-efficiently deliver video over LTE networks and meet the challenges created by rising mobile usage and the growth of video traffic.

Keith Wymbs, Elemental Technologies

Multiscreen business models are still a work in progress. The two primary business strategies are to reduce churn and increase monetisation. The latter is the biggest challenge. The most innovative pay TV operators view multiscreen and TV everywhere offerings as both strategic offensive and defensive plays. While there is a lot to lose to disruptive new entrants, multiscreen ventures also present well-established leaders the opportunity to extend and secure market leadership for another generation. Coping with heterogeneity and rapid change imposes constraints on the economic viability of a multiscreen initiative. Trying to properly match the video content consumers want at any given time with existing bandwidth capacity, across multiple device types, necessitates infrastructural flexibility and powerful video processing. Those who want to win new streaming revenue with OTT, TV everywhere and pay TV lite multiscreen models have accelerated their market penetration with adaptive bitrate implementations. These include Adobe HDS, Apple HLS and MPEG-DASH. Support for these streaming protocols is part of the broader device and service platforms media companies are building to support their multiscreen services.

David Sandford, TiVo

The TV industry has yet to develop a perfect system for capitalising on demand by consumers for a true multiscreen experience, but if you look at the music industry and where it has come over a short period of time, we can get a look into where TV’s business model should go. Music was able to go from buying one tape or CD to providing an experience where you can get access to anything ever produced, on any playlist on any device and bring that anywhere and everywhere. Although TV is not here yet, the industry is learning from the mistakes made by the music industry, including rampant piracy and labels being fiscally crushed, to ensure that both the business side and the consumer enjoy a mutually beneficial experience.

Carl Walter-Holst, Appear TV

It’s still early days. A year ago multiscreen was more or less an experiment for most operators. I think the dual Sky approach of offering Sky Go primarily as a churn preventer while Now TV is aimed at gaining additional revenues from non-subscribers is a very interesting strategy. It has the benefit of serving as a marketing tool and a revenue generator with targeted advertising capability. It’s also interesting to look at the YouView non-subscription model in the UK and the traction of this open access to attractive content such as sport with bundled packages to consumers. From a technical perspective the challenge still remains in the adaptive bitrate delivery that the quality of service expectation similar to live broadcast delivery is difficult to manage when the network is not controlled by the content provider. Bandwidth saving in networks with restrictive capacity will be enhanced by compression efficiency standards such as HEVC in a linear progression of higher capacity CDN and 4G wireless.

How do you see the market developing in the next few years?

Carl Walter-Holst, Appear TV

Multiscreen has very quickly moved from the experimental stage, through nice to have and is now rapidly becoming a must have. There’s little reason to expect this pace of change to slow. Appear TV believes that broadcast network operators will take advantage of their controlled secure environment and quality delivery perspective to try to stay ahead of their pure OTT competitors.

Keith Wymbs, Elemental Technologies

At Elemental, we see some large media companies enabling the future of media in which live broadcasts quickly evolve into on-demand assets, territories have no boundaries, and the promise of customised programming is a reality. None of these changes are possible with traditional video delivery systems. They require the right mix of flexible software-based video processing systems, ubiquitous high-speed networking and device proliferation that simply didn’t exist five years ago.  We also see a gradual migration to cloud based infrastructures that are truly elastic in nature.

Simon Frost, Ericsson

Multiscreen is becoming increasingly ubiquitous in every operator’s TV offering, and it will be fascinating to see how the emergence of new, super-fast IP networks impacts on the multi-screen TV landscape. Research from Ericsson ConsumerLab found that that 50% of consumers surveyed are already watching TV outside the home and 67% of consumers use mobile devices for consumption of TV services. The launch of solutions for the delivery of video over LTE networks will define the next step to enabling true multi-screen and fully mobile TV Anywhere experiences, transforming the costs and efficiency of delivering high quality TV and video experiences over mobile networks, to all devices.

David Sandford, TiVo

Television in its current state on the grid guide lags far behind tablets and smart phones’ accessibility. Over the next few years the television user experience will be one that is far more prized, upgraded, convenient and personalised to the consumer. Content will come from multiple places but will be unified in a way that provides a superior experience anytime you want it, and wherever you want it.

Frédéric Bonnard, France 24

We see social networks driving consumption, bringing people to use mobiles and tablets as the primary screen more and more.

Harry Koiter, SeaChange

As service providers are going multiscreen they gradually prepare for OTT to gain access to customers outside of their network.  On their legacy platforms – i.e. set-tops – they will need to give access to large and popular OTT players, such as Netflix and Spotify, which will help to keep subscribers on their multi-play subscriptions.  Also, net revenues from subscribers are expected to increase due to the introduction of advanced advertising across all screens. Advertising will either reduce content cost, or increase revenues – or both.

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